Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Bon Iver @ Manchester Arena, 09.11.2012

At first glance, this intimidating venue in the middle of a hiving Manchester city centre didn’t seem like the best setup for such a usually intimate band, suiting more of the archetypal pop groups and rock and roll bands from the last generation. Instead it exceeded my initial scepticism. Half of the immeasurable extent of the Manchester Arena was cut off, effectively bringing the stage forward with it and ignoring the top mezzanine level as if it were an unwanted friend at a 15 year old’s birthday party.

Bringing things down a notch meant the whole audience – mainly made up of beardy, beer-bellied men (the type you want to run at and hug) and lost-looking couples – was guaranteed an ogle at the impressive stage of projections, draping, intricate lighting and Bon Iver themselves.

‘Perth’ saw a surprisingly loud beginning to what would be a predictably emotional gig. The self-titled Bon Iver, Bon Iver album showcased guitar and horn heavy editions of ‘Towers’, ‘Beth/Rest’ and ‘Holocene’. True to form, the For Emma, Forever Ago regulars relieved Justin Vernon and the band of some vocal duties, with the audience singing back every word of the ever-popular ‘Skinny Love’, ‘Flume’ and ‘The Wolves’. A particularly special moment was a song from the Blood Bank EP, ‘Woods’, which saw an impeccable stripped back version from Vernon, who repeatedly looped and overlaid vocals through his mic. As a result the audience fell silent.

After a screaming encore they ended very fittingly with ‘For Emma’, a soundtrack to many a broken heart and after grasping it was almost over and how quickly time had vanquished, emotion falls short and you realise you’ve probably just witnessed one the tightest, intense, thought-provoking, and beautiful bands ever assembled and that this was to be one of the last live performances of 2012.

It’s the small yet contradicting cosmic qualities of Justin and the rest of his multi-instrumental bandmates that stay with you every time they play. It never tires, the romance is captured and portrayed in such a way that it sets it aside from anything else out there, which is why this band has stood the test of time with just two albums to speak for it.

I thank you again Justin Vernon for being so accomplished and consistently humble. For falling in love, living through guilt and loss and deciding the only option was to turn all this despondency and passion into pure poetry. You have been rewarded by travelling the world and seeing these people connect so personally to everything sung and performed and you can now walk away satisfied, knowing you inspired a new generation.

Words: Emma Milton

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